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Stocks Mixed After Fed News            03/20 16:11

   Banks led U.S. stocks mostly lower Wednesday after a brief rally sparked by 
the Federal Reserve's latest policy update faded. 

   (AP) -- Banks led U.S. stocks mostly lower Wednesday after a brief rally 
sparked by the Federal Reserve's latest policy update faded. The real action 
centered in the bond market, where prices rose sharply, pulling Treasury yields 
down to the lowest levels they've seen in more than a year.

   The central bank said it has ruled out interest rate increases this year and 
issued a dimmer outlook on the U.S. economy.

   That triggered one of the biggest slides for Treasury yields in months, 
knocking the 10-year Treasury yield as low as 2.53 percent, down from 2.61 
percent late Tuesday and from 3.20 percent late last year. The two-year 
Treasury yield, which is more influenced by Fed movements, fell to 2.39 percent 
from 2.45 percent late Tuesday.

   Yields have been falling steadily since November, as worries rose about a 
slowing global economy and traders subsequently made moves in anticipation of a 
more patient Fed.

   The Fed's decision not to raise rates in 2019 is a marked change from three 
months ago, when the central bank projected two rate hikes in 2019. The move 
comes as Fed officials project that the U.S. economy will grow more slowly this 
year and in 2020, a change from the panel's projections just three months ago.

   The central bank also said it will stop shrinking its bond portfolio in 
September, a step that would help hold down long-term interest rates.

   The Fed's announcement was clearly positive for the market, said Quincy 
Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

   "Powell's suggestion that the Fed is on hold this year is important," she 
said. "The question for the market remains whether or not the four rate hikes 
from last year and the unwinding of the balance sheet at the same time could be 
continuing, even now, to tighten financial conditions."

   The S&P 500 dropped 8.34 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,824.23. The Dow Jones 
Industrial Average fell 141.71 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,745.67. The 
average had been down more than 216 points earlier.

   The Nasdaq composite eked out a slight gain, adding 5.02 points, or 0.1 
percent, to 7,728.97. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 
11.83 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,543.16.

   Major European indexes finished lower. 


   It was only last autumn that interest rates were on the rise and rattling 
investors, who worried that an overly aggressive Fed would keep raising rates 
and choke off growth in the face of a slowing global economy. The Fed increased 
rates four times last year and three times in 2017.

   Besides encouraging more borrowing and economic growth, lower interest rates 
can make stocks look more attractive to investors, at least when compared with 
the lower amount of interest that bonds are paying.

   On the losing end, though, are U.S. banks, whose profits can take a hit if 
the gap between short- and long-term interest rates narrows. Financial stocks 
in the S&P 500 fell 2.1 percent for the largest loss among the 11 sectors that 
make up the index.

   KeyCorp slumped 5.3 percent, while Bank of America lost 3.4 percent. 


   Health care, industrial and technology stocks also took heavy losses. Humana 
dropped 4 percent, United Rentals fell 3.8 percent and Oracle shed 2.6 percent.

   Communications and energy sector stocks notched solid gains. Netflix climbed 
4.6 percent, while Noble Energy added 3.6 percent.

   Developments in the trade talks between the U.S. and China helped pull the 
market lower earlier in the day.

   President Donald Trump said if negotiations result in a deal, tariffs could 
stay in place for some time to ensure Beijing "lives by the deal." Trump added 
that the White House was discussing keeping tariffs for a "substantial period 
of time," adding that China has had "problems living by certain deals."

   Administration officials are set to visit China for more negotiations late 
next week. Trump said the talks are "coming along nicely."

   Wall Street is hoping for a resolution to the damaging trade war between the 
world's largest economies, which has made goods more costly for companies and 
consumers.

   Despite Wednesday's downbeat finish, the market is still off to a roaring 
start to the year. The S&P 500 index is up 12.7 percent so far in 2019. That's 
better than the full-year gains for the benchmark index in four of the past 
five years.

   News of tighter supplies of oil and continued production cuts helped to 
briefly push the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil above $60 a barrel. It 
hadn't closed above that price since November. It fell back slightly in 
afternoon trading, finishing with a gain of 1.4 percent to $59.83 a barrel.

   The rise came after the U.S. government reported that supplies of oil fell 
9.6 percent last week and news that OPEC plans on maintaining deep production 
cuts.

   The price of oil has been increasing sharply since Christmas Eve, when it 
hit a low of just over $42 per barrel. That followed a 44 percent plunge since 
October 3, when it hit a high of just over $76 per barrel.

   Brent crude gained 1.3 percent to close at $68.50 a barrel. Wholesale 
gasoline added 1.2 percent to $1.92 a gallon, heating oil rose 0.9 percent to 
$2.01 a gallon and natural gas fell 1.9 percent to $2.82 per 1,000 cubic feet.

   The dollar fell to 110.61 yen from 111.41 Japanese yen on Tuesday. The euro 
strengthened to $1.1446 from $1.1352.

   Gold dropped 0.4 percent to $1,301.70 an ounce, silver lost 0.4 percent to 
$15.32 an ounce and copper gave up 0.1 percent to $2.92 a pound.


(BE)

 
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